D&D Classing It Up: The Bard

Now that you’ve gotten to know your nerds, I’ve decide to class things up in this joint a little bit. I’m going to be talking about the different classes of D&D and how you might want to play them, or what it might look like to put a spin on them. I’m also going to give you some ideas and backstories that you could use in your game so your bard feels different from other bards.

Image Source: Wizards

The Bard

When I think of a bard, I think about a wandering storyteller/musician who goes from town to town and tavern to tavern playing and telling stories for their meals, rooms, and drink. Or, on the flip side, I think of someone who is in the court of a noble, telling them stories at their fancy parties and keeping them entertained while the drinks keep flowing.

In Dungeons and Dragons, this is usually the case, and in general, I’d say that you would likely end up as the first type of bard, who then joins up with an adventuring group in hopes of getting the best story ever. In our Dungeons and Flagons game, during the very first episode, Tate is telling this magnificent tale about how Nimrose, Finja, and himself had defeated a horde of dragons. Now, this wasn’t true at all, but he was demonstrating why he would fit well into the party, and that’s how I worked it to get the party together, since Nimrose and Finja already knew each other.

Image Source: Troll And Toad

Mechanically speaking, the Bard is going to be a charisma-based character, and probably the face of the group. They cast their spells based off of charisma, and they can eventually become really good at skills like persuasion and deception and other skills that are generally meant to charm the pants off of people, for good or ill. This also lends itself to creating a character that is probably more chaotic neutral in alignment, because they are capable of manipulation. However, you’ll want to be careful that you don’t let chaotic neutral become chaotic evil while still having your character pretend they aren’t bad. The chaotic neutral bard would be the jokester of the group, or the person who is going to say something off-the-wall, or who might start to go overboard when fighting someone who is evil.

So, why might a bard join and adventuring group?

I already gave the reason that Tate did, which is to get a new story. That would be one pretty easy and common reason. Another reason might be that the Bard already has a story, like a long-lost treasure or long-lost city that they are looking for, and they need an adventuring group to help them find it so that they’ll have another story to tell. Finally, I think that protection is a valid reason for a bard to join an adventuring group as well. While a bard is usually able to hold their own in battle, in terms of the story they generally aren’t the strongest characters, and they would probably want someone else to do their fighting for them. Stick them with a fighter or a ranger or someone else who can protect them on the roads, and that makes a lot of sense as well.

What are some backstories I could use?

I’m going to pull first from Tate’s backstory:

You could be the fourth son or daughter of a noble and not be entitled to any land. So you have a good life, but you’re bored and you want to do something more. You start traveling around and listening to stories, and eventually you just start telling those stories again and turning that into a way of life. Your family doesn’t like you because being a bard is degrading, and you don’t like them either because they just want you to be lazy at home and do nothing, or maybe they wanted you to join the church (or a D&D equivalent).

Or maybe, after years of being a soldier, you’re too old to do that anymore. You’ve always been social, and you’ve started telling stories around bars, and people started buying you drinks. Now you’re traveling around telling stories of battles you’ve been in before, but that’s given you the itch to get back out and kill a monster again. So you’re looking for that new story to tell, and better yet, to help create, but you need some help now, as you’re a bit older. This would be a non-traditional build, as you’d still have pretty high charisma, but you’d probably put more into strength and constitution than you would dexterity, which would normally be a bard’s secondary skill. Remember that finesse weapons can be wielded with either strength or dexterity.

Or perhaps in another scenario, you’ve spent years as a bard, but what people don’t realize is that you’re a bit of a criminal as well. Nobles don’t pay much attention to you at parties when you’re performing, and even though they pay you well, you leave with a little bit extra at the end of the night. There have been a lot of scullery maids and butlers getting in trouble and being blamed for what you’ve done, but that’s their problem. You’ve heard of an item that would basically set you up for life if you could get it, and there’s going to be a big celebration coming up at the place where it’s kept; now you just need to get invited and find some people who can help you get it out.

That last one seems to describe a bit more of an evil character, but you could also spin it as you’re helping the poor with what you liberate from the wealthy. Or maybe there is a kingdom that you do this in because their armies killed off your family, and you want to get revenge on them in your own way, so you’re stealing from every noble who was part of the war that killed your family and destroyed your village.

And one last idea:

People like bards, and while they remember your face and the stories you’ve told, people don’t think much of you or suspect you. The fact that you’re a member of a resistance is something that you keep hush-hush. You’ve been in houses of nobles and heard stories that no one else could get, as your music opens many a door. Now they’ve asked you to find out some information hidden away in the manor of the king, and you’re going to need a little help doing it.

Have you played a bard? What sort of backstory did you use?

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